Yesterday in my office was weekly fruit day. As always, I took a few, and did not eat them all. I left two on my work table. The fruit were in perfectly good condition, and I have done this more than a few times.

Today I came to work and realised that the fruit was missing. I left work late and about the same time, the cleaning lady started. Because of that fact, I suspect that that this is her doing. She has worked there for at least 3 months or at least, that is how far back I remember her.

I actually don't know what to do in this kind of situation. I know that cleaning personnel can't take anything from work tables, as the manager told me that cleaning staff are informed that they can't even rearrange the tables.

I have a few options in my mind:

  • I could go talk to a manager about this, but I am worried that maybe she has never done this before and was really hungry. I don't mind, but she could have left a note, maybe.
  • It could also be that she is doing this, but constantly changing which work tables she takes them from, and everyone feels the same as me, that it should be reported.
  • Maybe that she can't tell difference between old and fresh fruit, which is bad too.

I am pretty confused, because I don't want to get her fired if the reason was the first one. I am not comfortable talking to her personally because that could get me in trouble - if it was not her, she could raise some problems for me for accusing her of stealing.

What actions can I take?


8 Answers 8


From my perspective, going to your manager about this would show a serious lack of ability to solve your own problems. Here's an idea - ask her what happened to the fruit. Just say, "Hey, I had some fruit here yesterday, but don't see it today, did you by any chance throw it out thinking it was bad?" If the answer is, "yes" then just say - "OK, no big deal, but in the future please leave it alone - I'll throw it in the trash if I see it's going bad".

Or here's an even simpler idea just put the fruit in your desk drawer overnight.

I don't know why you're assuming it's the cleaning lady - that seems presumptuous, but maybe you have more experience with her than you've conveyed. Maybe one of your fellow employees picked it up because they wanted an apple and knew you could get a fresh one the next week anyway since it's free.

  • Modern desks still have drawers? That's news to me.
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 10:59

To be honest I think you may be slightly over-reacting here.

First of all, as far as I understand you don't actually know that the cleaning lady took the fruit.

Secondly, even if she did, you have to consider her intentions for removing the fruit. Generally cleaning staff are instructed not to move papers or touch keyboards, etc. but they will often remove empty water glasses/mugs, food trays, etc. So it may be the case that she sees your fruit as food waste.

(Also if you care so much about the fruit why do you leave them on your table?)

  • 9
    I agree with all of this except the part where you say that it's a slight overreaction. This borders on, if not breaches, ridiculousness. I understand that it was OP's possession and obviously stealing is wrong, but at the end of the day there's a lot of conclusions being jumped to and I have to say, if this is OP's biggest concern, they should consider themselves lucky. Besides, if a subordinate came to me with this issue it would reflect incredibly badly on them for a multitude of reasons. Sorry OP, but it comes across as whining.
    – zfrisch
    Commented May 15, 2015 at 5:35

If she had taken your stapler, I would suggest you BURN THE WHOLE BUILDING DOWN.

On a slightly more serious note, I cannot begin to fathom as to why you care so much about the fruit or why you are so paranoid that the cleaning lady is some crazy fruit stealer. Was this some kind of magical fruit? Is fruit insanely expensive where you live? Is weekly fruit day your only source of food for the week? Is this fruit related to you?

Unless the answer is YES to one of the above, just let it go. Talking to a manager will in the worse case get you in trouble for making false accusations and in the best case make your manager think you are incompetent. Not to mention that you can't prove it was her... even if you could, she has an air tight alibi that "the fruit was rotting" (which you can't disprove since the evidence is gone).

Don't leave a note... don't talk to the cleaning lady... just let it go. Accept that no matter how much investigation you do, we will probably never know what really happened to the fruit.


There were similar issues by “disappearing” food in one of the companies I’ve worked for.

The employers have a row with the cleaning personel for not handling fresh food and not fresh food separately (which means, leaving the first where it was). It all ended with leave-no-food policy.

It’s a workplace, not a picnic. Even if your company policy allows eating at your desk, you shouldn't leave any food overnight (as well as anything that can smell or rotten or attract insects). You’d spare yourself a lot of stress.


As Coburn's comment noted, if she did indeed throw the apple out, it may be that she was 100% in the correct.

I have had the unpleasant experience of leaving a perfectly good apple overnight on my desk and come back to see fruit flies all over it.

I also had unpleasant experience of seeing roaches on work floors. And rats in the buildings.

If you don't want your fruit thrown out, put it into the pantry refrigirator (assuming you have one) or take it home. Or at least leave it in locked ziplock.

Your workplace is NOT a vermin feeding station, and I'm sure your coworkers would be happier vermin-less.

  • Update: had to kill a giant NYC-sized roach on the floor last week. Wish I could upvote my own answer 100 times :)
    – user13655
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 19:35
  • You make good points about proper storage of food, but really if your workplace already has rats and "NYC-sized" roaches, I think it's time for professional extermination. I couldn't stand to work in such an environment.
    – Brandin
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 9:03

The easiest thing to do would be to put the fruit in your desk when you leave, as Jared suggested.

But if you're really concerned about it you could get in touch with her manager, your manager may not do much, if anything, about it. Her hands are sort of tied as to what could be done since the cleaning staff don't work for her directly ( I'm assuming not). The only thing I could see your manager doing is calling the cleaning company about it, so save her a step and just take matters into your own hands.

That said, I don't think it warrants a phone call to her boss at this stage, simply, tape a note on the desk stating that any fruit on the desk will be consumed at some point and should not be tossed in the trash. If it still goes missing at this point and you're unequivocally, 100% sure that she's the one taking the fruit, then and only then do you call her cleaning company about it.


It appears that you don't know what happened and are instead making an assumption. It appears from the tone of your question that the fruit was brought in and was free to be taken, and thus you aren't out anything except for being disappointed that the fruit is not there today. For all you know, one of your co-workers may have come in before you did, saw the fruit, and taken it. Before you go to your boss or anyone else you need to have hard evidence, as in "I saw the cleaning lady take X" - not just, "Fruit was there, cleaning lady came, now there's no fruit". Best of luck.

  • I know for a fact that they were not my colleagues, because they can just take there own fruit, and most of them are doing exactly what i am doing with them. Fruits are ment for company workers, not for third party cleaning company workers which were contracted ;)
    – Cardiner
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 12:18
  • 14
    You say that your colleagues didn't take the fruit, but again you don't KNOW that because you don't know who took what. Perhaps a colleague who comes in before you really wanted some fruit and took yours. Or perhaps it's the cleaning lady. Or perhaps it's a secret gang of fruit-thieves who break into offices JUST TO STEAL FRUIT!!! Or...perhaps the theft of the fruit is just a cover-up to distract from the real theft of millions upon millions of euros!!!!! THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE - AND YOU MUST UNCOVER IT!!!! Yeah - mention all that to your boss. Best of luck. Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 12:56

This is the kind of situation that could either be "trivial," or potentially very serious, because it involves security.

To give everyone the benefit of the doubt, I'd just "make a note of it" (mentally) the first time.

But if this happens again, I'd report it to someone in authority. Maybe human resources if I didn't want to go "up the "chain of command." To have someone "operating" in this way in your workplace is a major threat to security.

  • isnt fruit trivial
    – enche
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 18:47
  • 2
    @enche: "Trivial" for the fruit, but not trivial for security.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 19:36
  • 2
    Fruit isn't trivial! It's delicious!
    – Jane S
    Commented May 15, 2015 at 3:35
  • 1
    Trivial per-fruit?
    – Jared
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 19:45

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